Urban parks mean different things to different people, but to everyone they stand as a place of retreat, a place for recreation where city dwellers can escape, albeit temporarily, from the pressures of urban life.
The Victorians contrived that parks would be the ‘lungs’ of a city. Industrialised areas were generally heavily polluted and congested, and the Victorians recognised that parks could serve a positive purpose – they could be a place of refuge for the inhabitants of an expanding metropolis like London. Parks could contribute to improving quality of life and mental and physical health, while playing a vital role in neighbourhood development.
The area surrounding Wimbledon and Wimbledon Village has numerous small parks in addition to the large expanse of the Common. Cannizaro Park is one of them. And it’s well worth a visit.
A potted history of Cannizaro Park
Cannizaro Park takes its name from Cannizaro House. Cannizaro House was originally known as Warren House, which was built in the 1700s, but its name was changed in 1874 to reflect that of a former leaseholder, Francis, Duke of Cannizzaro and his Scottish wife Sophia, Duchess of Cannizzaro. The Duke later returned to Italy, but the Duchess continued to reside at the house until her death in 1841. Though the house continues to take its name from the Duke, there is a slight variation in the spelling.
The house entertained many well-known occupants over the years before a major fire reduced it to a shell in 1900. Its then leaseholder, Colonel Mitchell, rebuilt the property. The park and gardens opened to the public in 1949, while the house has been run as a hotel since 1987.
What is now Cannizaro Park used to be the grounds and private gardens of the main house. Cannizaro Park covers approximately 35 acres and has been open to the public for the last 60 years.
What to see in Cannizaro Park
Cannizaro Park holds Grade II listed status and contains a variety of rare plants and shrubs, some of which were planted many years ago. The park is varied in landscape, and boasts a woodland area, lawns, and more formal gardens in addition to lakes and ponds.
The formal gardens include a sunken garden, an azalea and rhododendron dell (the azaleas were planted around 40 years ago), a water garden, Italian garden, Mediterranean garden, wild garden and rose garden. With Spring/Summer approaching, these gardens will soon be in full bloom. The woodlands are ideal for walking in – the perfect antidote to busy London life – while the lakes and selection of water features give the park its tranquil and calming quality. If you like to explore woodlands and parks and are fond of trees, you’ll discover some fine specimen trees here, including horse chestnut, sassafrass and birch.
In addition, Cannizaro Park also plays host to a variety of sculptures and statues, notably a stone bust of the Emperor Haile Selassie, who once took refuge in Wimbledon during his exile.
What to do in Cannizaro Park
The park is the ideal spot if you want to enjoy a picnic, a family day out or simply take the dog for a solitary walk. There is a café and public conveniences in the park, and the hotel itself has a restaurant.
Whether you’re out for a walk or a jog or have the family in tow and need to keep young ones entertained, Cannizaro Park has all the space and facilities required. There’s open grassland for picnics and playing games, while the formal gardens provide a space for looking at beautiful plants and flowers.